Atlantic City’s Non-Gambling Offerings now paying off

About a decade ago, Atlantic City began realizing that the American gaming scene was shifting away from just casino games. So casinos took steps to diversify their offerings, and it now looks like these measures are paying off.

As reported by Tourism Economics, sales at non-gambling outlets have risen to 28.3%, up from 22.3% just two years ago. Bar payrolls are up 39% over the same span, showing that the nightlife scene is getting better in Atlantic City.

One of those responsible for remaking the city is Bart Blatstein, who dumped $52 million into the Pier Shops to remake them “The Playground.” The big attraction to The Playground is “T Street,” which is a row of music-themed bars that are in the same vein as Nashville’s Music Row. Additionally, this entertainment area also features a concert space that can hold 2,000 people and accommodate meetings or weddings. As if all this isn’t enough, Atlantic City visitors can also expect to find a bowling alley and a sports bar dedicated specifically to fantasy sports nuts.

“Would you go see the same movie over and over again?” Blatstein asked the New Zealand Herald. “That’s what’s happening here. Atlantic City needs something else besides gambling.”

The numbers support Blatestein’s assertion that Atlantic City needs more than gambling to thrive. In 2006, the city reached a revenue peak at $5.2 billion, followed by a long decline that’s bottomed out at $2.74 billion in 2014. Not coincidentally, four casinos also closed last year amid falling numbers and lower tourism.

It’s little surprise that Atlantic City relied on gambling for so long, given that they made big profits over nearly four decades with a simple formula: bring tourists in and let them gamble. However, this formula began to crumble when neighboring states legalized and started offering casino gaming. Now, with Delaware, New York, Maryland and Pennsylvania all offering casinos, it’s made the East Coast gaming market a lot tougher.

“All we really needed was gaming,” said Tony Rodio, president of the Tropicana casino. “We were the convenience option for the entire Northeast. We had more demand than we had supply. We didn’t need conventions.”

Atlantic City definitely seems intent on reclaiming their former glory and becoming the dominant East Coast gambling hub again. And it looks like they’re going to ride a new wave of non-gambling attractions to get there.